What are communities worth?
Jacaranda House is a purpose built mental health out-patient clinic on Kennedy Road in Napier that has been operating successfully for around 20 years. Last month the Hawkes Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) announced that in 2015 they are going to close Jacaranda House and sell the property.
This decision isn’t because Jacaranda House is failing, or that demand has dropped to such an extent that it no longer justifiable (if only…), in fact, quite to opposite. The clinic sees approximately 60 to 70 patients per week. The patients on its books are in the ‘severe to enduring’ category. The ‘mild to moderate’ tend to go to their GP and get a referral to counselling services, so we are talking about the most vulnerable in our community.
The DHB has given the usual excuse around rationalisation of services, new facilities in Hastings will provide a better quality, more intensive service etc. But what the DHB is going to do to help those patients who may not have their own transport is provide a free bus from Napier to Hastings. As if these patients are like kids going on an outings or a sports team that needs a lift to the park. Hmmm.
Many of these Napier people struggle to make the trip to Jacaranda House as it is, let alone hop on a bus to Hastings, and so to suggest that this is a ‘solution’ is absurd.
So why the move from ‘community-based’ mental health care, back to the institutional model of the past that I thought medical practitioners were so against? Money. Pure and simple. The HBDHB is spending millions refurbishing it’s on-site mental health unit at Hawkes Bay hospital in Hastings. God nows, this is way overdue, however, why should this effect community-based services? Because, in my view, they have, quite simply, forgotten that community care must actually be about communities. To crow on about how much money they are spending on their new mental health unit misses the point: this isn’t some destination where you ‘built it and they will come’, but rather mental health provision must be a combination of community delivery and hospital services; not one or the other.
I have always believed that society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, and Jacaranda House is one of the important threads that holds Napier’s community together. If one starts pulling these threads, civilised society slowly begins to unravel. This is what is happening in Napier; and across many provincial towns and cities.
We will make a bit of noise about this in the hope that the DHB comes to its senses and allows those who make Jacaranda House such a special and successful place, to continue doing the Lord’s work, otherwise many of those who require the special services offered by those who work at Jacaranda House will have no where to go, and we all know what happens when mental health patients do not receive the level of care they require.
So, this begs the question; how much are communities worth? The DHB believes they can shut down a facility that sees 60 to 70 patients a week and the cost is acceptable. I don’t. My community is worth a hell of a lot more than that.!